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My Ideal NL-Only Roster

On Thursday, I discussed the results of a recent AL-only auction I took part in, my second "real" auction/draft of the season. All the rest have been mocks.

It got me thinking ahead to my upcoming NL-only draft. That league is a 10-team, head-to-head 7x7 format, with OPS, batter strikeouts, holds and pitcher losses serving as the additional categories. Net stolen bases and net saves replace the standard SB and SV categories.

However, I wanted to simplify things for this experiment. Rather than input my league's specific settings to generate auction values – which you can do on our site as well as with our app and the RotoWire Draft Software – I wanted to keep the parameters from the AL-only league (12 teams, 5x5 roto with 23 active roster spots) and try to assemble the best possible NL-only team with a $260 budget. Again, my NL-only league is a draft, but I thought this would be a decent way to see what an ideal roster would look like from a more traditional NL-only format.

The dollar values I used come straight from RotoWire and assume a 70-30 price split for hitters and pitchers. Of course, there will be overpays and bargains in any auction, but if every player were to go right near market value, how good of a team could I assemble?

After some time tinkering around, here's what I came up with:

C: Devin Mesoraco, CIN ($15)

C: Nick Hundley, COL ($1)

1B: Anthony Rizzo, CHC ($29)

2B: Kolten Wong, STL ($16)

SS: Yunel Escobar, WAS ($6)

3B: Jake Lamb, AZ ($6)

MI: Arismendy Alcantara, CHC ($7)

CR: Yangervis Solarte, SD ($8)

OF: Yasiel Puig, LAD ($30)

OF: Billy Hamilton, CIN ($19)

OF: Mike Morse, MIA ($13)

OF: David Peralta, AZ ($5)

OF: Gerardo Parra, MIL ($3)

UT: Jose Peraza, ATL ($10)

P: Max Scherzer, WAS ($25)

P: Gerrit Cole, PIT ($13)

P: Drew Storen, WAS ($11)

P: Wily Peralta, MIL ($11)

P: Brandon McCarthy, LAD ($10)

P: Francisco Liriano, PIT ($8)

P: Matt Cain, SF ($7)

P: Ken Giles, PHI ($6)

P: Anthony DeSclafani, CIN ($1)

Is it perfect? No. But that's the beauty of it. Even in a perfect world, you're going to have some question marks on your roster. That's just the nature of "only" leagues. The player pool is stretched so thin, especially in a league with 23 active roster spots and 12 teams.

- Hundley is risky as a second catcher, but Wilin Rosario's role behind the plate will be reduced this season and the Coors Field factor must be taken into account. It's a small sample (32 games), but Hundley has slugged .408 at Coors for his career. Brian McCann (.406), Evan Longoria (.404) and Chris Davis (.404) all slugged below that mark last season. The 31-year-old Hundley is even on my deeper mixed radar. I don't see any reason why Hundley (NFBC ADP: 424.77) should be going later than the likes of Christian Bethancourt (NFBC ADP: 397.18) and Welington Castillo (NFBC ADP: 423.10) on average. Sure, Mike McKenry could be a threat to his playing time, but I think Hundley may very well serve as the primary option behind the plate to start the year.

- Lamb has been turning heads so far in camp, with Diamondbacks Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa saying Friday, "His talent is oozing." Moreover, the early reports on Yasmany Tomas' acclimation to third base have been mixed. If the team ends up deciding Tomas will be better off in the outfield, Lamb's stock will rise considerably. I'll gladly take a chance on him at $6.

- Cubs manager Joe Maddon may have his new Ben Zobrist in Arismendy Alcantara, given the youngster's ability to play all around the field. While Alcantara posted just a .205/.254/.367 batting line in 70 games with the Cubs last season (300 PA), he did manage 10 homers and eight steals, and has a strong track record at the upper levels of the minors. Maybe it will be a few years before he pulls it all together, but I think Alcantara plays and improves enough this year to be useful in NL-only leagues.

- Solarte is another guy currently without a set job, but I think he easily beats out Will Middlebrooks for the starting role at third base in San Diego. The 27-year-old Solarte makes very consistent contact (89.2% last season), rarely missing at pitches inside the strike zone (94.9% Z-Contact%). Further, he can switch-hit, which would help balance the Padres' right-handed-heavy lineup.

-I've said it on the RotoWire Fantasy Baseball Podcast, but I think Parra may see most of the starts against right-handed pitching for the Brewers. Khris Davis is a fine enough player, but the Brewers could be looking at three or four right-handers at the back half of the order with Davis in there. Parra, too, would balance the order and is a massive upgrade over Davis, defensively.

-Even with Billy Hamilton on the roster, I'd be fine spending $10 on Peraza. Perhaps I'll have to wait a month or two, but he could be an excellent source of average, steals and runs upon his promotion. If nothing else, he makes for excellent trade bait.

-It's no secret, but McCarthy finished ninth among qualifiers with a 2.87 xFIP last season, ahead of Madison Bumgarner (2.99), Jeff Samardzija (3.07), Jon Lester (3.10) and Jordan Zimmermann (3.10). Now, you put him on a team with a better offense and a more spacious home park? Count me in.

-Cain burned me last year in my NL-only league, and it was reported Saturday that he will be held out of Cactus League action until the middle of March. I'm still willing to bet on a bounce back at $7.

-DeSclafani is a homer pick, but I know James Anderson and Derek VanRiper believe he's a better endgame dart in NL-only leagues than teammate Tony Cingrani, given his wider variety of pitches.

What do you think? Let me know on Twitter @claywlink.